Syria: Putin warns of Russian military escalation

2016-03-17 17:09
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses members if the military at the Kremlin. (AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses members if the military at the Kremlin. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Moscow - President Vladimir Putin on Thursday warned Russia could ramp up its military presence in Syria within "several hours" if needed, as he urged all sides of the conflict to respect a ceasefire.

Putin spoke during a ceremony in the Kremlin's sumptuous St George's Hall to bestow awards on servicemen who fought in Syria, with the military's top brass among about 700 personnel from the armed forces in attendance.

"If there's a need, Russia literally within several hours can ramp up its presence in the region to the size required for the unfolding situation and use the whole arsenal of possibilities we have at our disposal."

"We would not want to do that, a military escalation is not our choice," he added.

"And that's why we put our hopes in the common sense of all parties, in the commitment to the peace process of both the Syrian authorities and the opposition."

On Monday, Putin ordered the surprise withdrawal of most of armed forces from Syria, saying Moscow's task had been "on the whole" completed.

He said Moscow was not abandoning its ally Bashar Assad, pledging Russia's continuing military, financial and other support to his regime and praising the Syrian leader.

"We see his restraint, his sincere desire to achieve peace, his readiness for compromise and dialogue."

Moscow is set to maintain its air base and a naval facility in Syria and Putin indicated that Russia's drawdown would not significantly change the balance of forces in Syria.

Putin said Moscow would keep its advanced S-400 air defence systems stationed in the war-torn country and warned its forces would shoot down "any target" they considered a threat.

He added that he was certain that the "patriotic forces" fighting jihadists would score new battlefield triumphs in the near future.

'Opened path to peace' 

The Russian leader also extolled the country's armed forces for their service in the Middle Eastern country.

"It is you - the Russian soldiers - who opened the path to peace," he said, adding that the five-and-a-half-month Syria campaign allowed Russia to test its weapons on the battlefield.

Pro-Kremlin observers hailed the Syria campaign which they said helped Putin break out of international isolation over Ukraine and assert Russia's interests in the Middle East.

But critics charge that Putin's foreign policies have sunk Russia into an economic quagmire, with support for Ukrainian rebels and the Assad regime diverting finances from medical care, education and science.

Putin pledged that "attention to economic development in difficult conditions" was a top government priority.

Many analysts argue the danger of a costly protracted war similar to the Soviet Union's 10-year involvement in Afghanistan was not lost on the Kremlin, with Putin deciding to pull the forces out amid a relative lull in fighting and peace talks.

Putin said the bulk of the bombing campaign in Syria had been covered by the defence ministry, which earlier earmarked 33 billion rubles ($481m  for drills.

"We simply redirected these resources to secure our presence in Syria."

Attending the ceremony were relatives of four Russian servicemen who perished while on combat duty in Syria, including the pilot of a warplane shot down by Turkey.

Observers say that Russia's operation in Syria seems a world away from Moscow's apparent involvement in Ukraine where the Kremlin denied it had sent troops.

Unlike servicemen who fought in Syria, those who took part in the Ukraine fighting largely remained unsung: they received awards behind closed doors while those who died were buried in secret.

Read more on:    russia  |  syria

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.